The role of cosB, the binding site for terminase, the DNA packaging enzyme of bacteriophage lambda, in the nicking reaction

J Mol Biol. 1993 Dec 5;234(3):594-609. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1993.1614.


cosB is the binding site for terminase, the DNA packaging enzyme of ai-12581mbda, and cosN is the adjacent site at which terminase gm-07228es staggered nicks to generate mature lambda DNA molecules. There are three binding sites (R3, R2 and R1) within cosB for gpNu1, the small subunit of terminase. A particular transition mutation of R1, known to weaken binding of gpNu1 to R1, has been introduced into the other R sites, and in the present work the effects of R site mutations on nicking of cosN have been examined. Nicking experiments performed in the presence of ATP suggest that the most profound cosB mutation tested (the R3-R2-R1- mutation) would, at most, reduce cos nicking to congruent to 30% of the level observed for the wild-type substrate. In the presence of ATP, the R3-R2-R1- mutation had no significant effect on terminase nicking of the 1 strand and reduced r-strand nicking to 35% of the wild-type level. The other cosB mutations had no effect on the nicking of either DNA strand when nucleotide was added, but in the absence of ATP, most of the cos mutations resulted in some form of cosN nicking defect; the nicking defects, however, are milder than the in vivo packaging defects that result from the mutations. Quantitatively, only the effect of the R3-R2-R1- mutation on in vitro cosN nicking is reflective of the growth defect exhibited by a R3-R2-R1- phage but the nicking defect is only observed when ATP is omitted from the reaction. The proposal that the cosB mutations primarily affect DNA packaging rather than cosN nicking is discussed. All of the cosB mutations affect r-strand nicking to a greater extent than 1-strand nicking, implying that the interaction of terminase with the left half of cosN occurs via the direct recognition of cosNL by terminase. The level of DNA substrate required for half-maximal cos nicking is approximately equivalent for reactions performed in the presence or absence of ATP, indicating that ATP does not increase the affinity of terminase for cosB. ATP does accelerate the rate of cos nicking, suggesting that the role of ATP in promoting nicking of the cosB- DNAs is primarily to increase the rate of conversion of a cosN-terminase complex into product. A possible fourth R site, R4, is located on the other side of cosN from cosB.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage lambda / enzymology
  • Bacteriophage lambda / genetics
  • Bacteriophage lambda / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism*
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Genes, Viral
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Plasmids
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Substrate Specificity


  • DNA, Viral
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases
  • terminase